The comic strip, The Wizard of Id, once portrayed the little king addressing the people from his balcony. “As I greet you today,” he began, “I want you to think of me as your shepherd watching over you as a shepherd guards his flock.” One citizen turned to another and said, “Better bundle up, Joe, we’re about to be fleeced.”
The world has seen too many leaders who have “fleeced” their followers. They increase their personal wealth and power with little regard for the welfare of their citizens.
However, the Bible records the life of one person who was a loving, humble leader, who was a good shepherd and proved it. He is Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” He also said, “I know my own and my own know me.”
The good shepherd calls his sheep “by name.” That is another way of saying that he wishes to have a personal relationship with us. As Christians, we can be certain that Christ knows us, cares for us, and is our unseen companion who knows us by name.
When we begin a friendship with someone, we start that friendship because we believe that the other person is going to be faithful and trustworthy. We also know it takes both parties to have a friendship that grows and blossoms. Even if one person loved us in an intimate way beyond expression, somehow it would do us no good unless we responded to that love.
Christ is calling us to respond to his love. Our response should be to get to know Christ better by seeking him in prayer, in the Scriptures, the Eucharist, in others, in the community of the Church, in the poor. Jesus can only be the Good Shepard to us if we allow him to be.
Our human relationships often have limits. The other person can only know so much about us but with Christ there is no limit. The possibilities for our relationship with Christ know no bounds. The only limitations are those that we ourselves set.
Jesus wants to be our friend. (John 15:15) Doesn’t it makes sense that the resurrected one who knows us by name and considers us friends is our eternal companion? Our most trustworthy shepherd and friend also announced that he came offering “abundant life”– life with depth, meaning, and purpose, with unrestrained hope. A life that no one can take from us.
As believers, we know that we came from God, that we are here to do God’s will by living lives of love and service. We also know that we are pilgrims traveling to our Father’s home for all eternity. We know that God has a plan for us, work for us to do, a destination toward which we should direct our lives.
We are not like that poor California man who years ago set out alone on his boat hoping to go to Catalina Island, a 25-mile journey. Unfortunately, the wind broke his mast and his motor failed. He was all alone at the mercy of the winds and waves of the Pacific Ocean. He drifted for three and a half months and was close to Costa Rica when a pilot looking for drug smugglers spotted him and sent a U.S. Navy ship to rescue him.
He had been a very lost and lonely man with no sure way to get to any destination. He simply had to be saved or he was ultimately doomed to die.
He needed help and so does everyone else. Adrift on the sea of life, we all need a trustworthy Shepherd to rescue us, to help us find meaning and hope, joy and inner peace. That is what our Lord provides for us. When Christ said he was the Good Shepherd who was willing to give his life for us, he was telling us how much we mean to him. We can respond by being a friend of Jesus.